Monday, September 26, 2005
Social scientists and others rely (or should rely) on extensively sampled data to support generalizations that they make. Valid generalizations can hardly arise from anything but sampling of a wide range of relevant data. To generalize about a given population, you at least need to sample it in some way.
Nonetheless, statistical generalizations do NOT seem to be very persuasive to most people. Not unreasonably, people tend to be much more influenced by observations and events that they know personally or that people they know have told them about. So generalizations will not usually gain much traction without illustrative examples. Anecdotes are at least as persuasive as well-founded statistical generalizations.
So what I want to do below is give two small anecdotes from my life that do in my view illustrate at the personal level two generalizations that I believe are well supported by other historical and psychometric data: That many Muslim populations are emotionally immature and that the Chinese are innately a highly civilized people. There are exceptions to every rule of course but what I want to do is give examples that illustrate the rule.
I often eat out for breakfast. And in highly multicultural Australia the providers of breakfasts are ethnically highly varied. And the "ethnics" often do not understand English well. So getting a breakfast from them can sometimes have its communication difficulties. On one such occasion, I was having difficulty getting what I had ordered from a Muslim (Iranian, I think) business. After communication had repeately failed, I began to get a bit irate. When I did so, however, the Muslim owner got irate with me and accused me of insulting him. At that point I simply turned on my heel without another word and walked out- and I never went there again. He went broke a few months later.
On a second more recent occasion, a similar situation transpired in a business run by a Chinese man. Did his "honour" get besmirched by my annoyance? Not a bit of it. He was apologetic and conciliatory. I did not walk out of HIS eatery. I enjoyed my breakfast when I eventually got it and I will eat there again. I shook his hand as I left by way of apology for my bad temper. And I am betting that he won't go broke. Give me the Chinese any day. I have known Chinese people since childhood and have had umpteen opportunities to observe their behaviour here in Australia-and the example I have just given is absolutely typical of them in my experience: Truly smart, patient and civilized people..